Last August 22, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law granting Magnum Air, operator of Skyjet, to operate international and domestic flights from the Philippines for the next 25 years. With Republic Act 11410, Skyjet may continue to operate commercial, cargo, and mail flights. With this, Skyjet may now pursue their goals of fleet expansion and of course, network expansion too.
Skyjet is basically the very first boutique airline in the Philippines utilizing a fleet of BAe 146-100 and 146-200 jets. They were the first airline to operate them after Asian Spirit retired the same aircraft which then later on became Zest Air operating Airbus A320 jets. A boutique airline is usually defined as a small airline but sophisticated and fashionable. There are only two boutique airlines in the Philippines, Skyjet and AirSwift.
Skyjet's (M8) President Dino Reyes said, "With the granting of this franchise, we can now pursue our plans in expanding our fleet as well as our new destinations and even launching international routes." Fleet and route expansion are indeed in the horizon for Skyjet, and this leaves us one question, what aircraft will they purchase?
Skyjet is based in Manila, a truly congested airport were slots are scarce. For Skyjet to serve more destinations and to expand, they need to increase capacity. Adding more BAE-146 jets may not be the answer due to slot, hence, the best way for them to increase capacity is to increase the size of the aircraft. One aircraft comes in mind, the Airbus A220-100. If ever Skyjet opts for this, they will be the first Airbus A220 operator in the Philippines, where A320s are common among Philippine based-carriers.
So why the A220-100?
Originally the Bombardier CS100, the A220-100 is the closest aircraft to the BAe-146 and the cheapest among all Airbus commercial aircraft, but that is not the only consideration. There are also other considerations like:
Second is the profile of destinations. When Skyjet announced both and domestic expansion, we are guessing that they will be staying away from major airports like Davao, Cebu, General Santos, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Beijing, and so on. Instead, we see them going for airports unserved from Manila, where competition is not so high. We see them serving small airports from China, Japan, and South Korea and passenger traffic may not be as high from these airports, yet, they do have their advantages. With 125 seats, this would translate to better fuel efficiency per seat as it would be pretty much easy to fill up an A220-100 as compared to a single-class A320 which takes 180 seats. China is poised to overtake the United States in terms of air travel volume and that being said, Skyjet would be better serving smaller airports in China.
In terms of number of seats, the A220-100 can take 125 which can be expanded to even 135 depending on the configuration and seat choice.
Powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1500G turbofans, the Airbus 220-100 has a range of 6,297km as compared to the BAe 146's range of 2,076km. The A220-100 will allow Skyjet to definitely serve more routes in China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea from Manila, the airline's hub.
How about the A319-100? The A220-100 fuel burn is 2.28kg/km whereas the A319-100 is at 2.93kg/km. Though their prices are not far where the A319 will cost $92.3M, the A220-100 can take-off and land from shorter runways, very close to that required by the BAE 146. The minimum take-off distance of the A220-100 is 1,463m as compared to the BAE 146's 1,550m. Landing for the A220 is at 1,387m compared to the BAE 146 at 1,200m. This makes the Airbus more appropriate for smaller airports around Asia which cannot be served by the larger A320 and Boeing 737. MTOW of the A220-100 is at 138,998lbs and the BAe 146 is at 93,036lbs.
Competition wise, the A220-100 can land and take-off in runways which cannot accomodate the larger A320 and these airports are usually served by turboprops or jets like the BAe 146. The A220 has the advantage of capacity for Skyjet which may take in more passengers than smaller short-haul and regional aircraft.
Looking at the direction of the Philippines's Department of Transportation (DOTr), we do also see the expansion of smaller airports and a noteable one is Sangley which will have a runway of 2,300m, perfect length for an A220-100 to operate safely.
With all these said, we are hoping Skyjet is also considering the smallest aircraft in the Airbus family, the A220-100. Of course, everything will depend further on the requirements and financial capabilities of the airline whether they can take this aircraft but we do feel that Skyjet will be able to benefit a lot from the A220 whent they start expanding. We feel it is still best for them to also remain as a boutique airline and develop a market for that.
At the end of the day, all will still depend on Skyjet and their number crunchers. For as though, we hope they consider this beautiful jet as BAe 146 replacements.